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IMAGE: "Star Wars"
20th Century Fox
Our critic thinks the cell-block rescue of Princess Leia is where the famed movie really starts to hook viewers.
TODAY contributor
updated 9/26/2011 11:32:49 AM ET 2011-09-26T15:32:49

To say I have seen “Star Wars” a lot is like saying the sun rises in the East quite a bit.

I’ve seen it dozens of times, the original version and the often-argued-over Special Edition. But aside from jumping in mid-movie during one of its countless cable airings, I haven’t watched the entire movie from start to finish in close to a decade.

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Now that George Lucas finally released “Star Wars: The Complete Saga” on Blu-ray, I couldn’t wait to see how “Star Wars” (I’m old school; I never call it "A New Hope") held up, recent revisions and all.

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More importantly, I wanted to see if a grown man could love a movie the same way he did as a 6-year-old.

The first thing I noticed when I popped in the Blu-ray was the sound. John Williams’ majestic score exploded through the speakers. The visual quality is razor-sharp. I was surprised to see how many scrapes and dirt marks C-3PO and R2-D2 had.

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Darth Vader's entrance remains outstanding. He just walks in, surveys the scene, and moves on, without so much as a word. Just the breathing.

When the film really gets interesting is when the droids land on Tatooine. Here’s where the world building begins. Lucas lets us soak in details and establishes this backwater world’s place in the galaxy. As a kid, this was my least favorite section of the film. Now? It was riveting. We also see Threepio and R2 really define their roles as the Oscar and Felix of the galaxy.

The dialogue in "Star Wars" comes under fire for being clunky, and some of it is, but watching it now only shows what a great actor Sir Alec Guinness really was. When Obi-Wan lies to Luke about what happened to his dad — and let's face it, he flat-out LIED — you buy every bit of it because Guinness sells it like a pro.

And now that we've seen the prequels, the scene where Obi-Wan sees Princess Leia's message takes on an entirely new meaning. The look on his face tells you he recognizes her.

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But I guess lying isn’t against the Jedi code. How can Obi-Wan tell Luke only Imperial Stormtroopers are that precise with their blasters? As we know from every single movie in the saga, Stormtroopers couldn't hit the broad side of the Death Star.

It may be heresy to say this, but I love the additions made in the Special Edition to the Mos Eisley arrival scenes. The extended shots of the landscape, the added alien races and the Stormtroopers on the Dewbacks (overgrown Iguana-like creatures) all help back up Obi-Wan's warning to Luke about it being a "wretched hive of scum and villainy."

There is no defending the "Greedo shoots first" revision, however. Even with what we know about the prequels, “Star Wars” remains a black & white, good vs. evil movie. Han is the only shade of grey in the movie, the mercenary. When he killed Greedo, we knew this guy was dangerous. Not so much anymore.

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If you ask people what hooked them on "Star Wars" the first time, I bet most people would point to the cell block rescue of Princess Leia, with the four leads working together and bickering every step of the way. Leia seems more ungrateful than I recall towards Han. He just burst into the detention area on the Death Star to save your prissy behind; not even a thank you?

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The light saber duel between Vader and Obi-Wan was and remains a standout moment. When Ben warns Vader, “If you strike me down, I'll become more powerful than you can possibly imagine,” it takes on greater significance because of what we learn in ‘Empire’ and in the prequels about Jedi afterlife.

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To me, the movie peaks with the aerial dogfight after the leads escape the Death Star. It has everything a "Star Wars" fan wants: Han, Luke, Leia and Chewie working in tandem. We also get to see the big brother/little brother relationship between Han and Luke. When Han notices the young farm kid has a thing for the princess, he can't help but needle him a bit.

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All in all, I was quite pleased — actually, relieved may be a better word — with how much I still enjoyed the movie. Despite some stilted acting — I’m looking at you, Carrie Fisher — the film remains fresh and fun. Aside from the redubbed Obi-Wan scream and the Greedo/Han switch, the rest of Lucas' tweaks were so benign (like the gussied-up Death Star explosion), they barely registered with me.

What annoyed me the most was a change Lucas didn’t make but should have: How come Chewbacca didn’t get a blasted medal at the end?

Does "Star Wars" hold up over 30+ years? Tell us on Facebook.

Michael Avila is a writer based in New York. Follow his pop culture musings on Twitter.

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